Next month Marvel plans to debut their first openly Jewish superhero on Disney+. This should be cause for celebration in an age of desired minority representation, but representation only matters if the minority themselves are included in their story.
JNS reports: “…Moon Knight, the son of a rabbi and the alter-ego of Marc Spector, a Jewish American from Chicago who became a boxer, joined the Marines and the CIA, and later became a mercenary. After almost being killed, the dying Spector is brought into a recently unearthed tomb for shelter and placed before a statue of the Egyptian moon god, Khonshu. Spector seems to die, but then suddenly revives, fully healed. He claims that Khonshu wants him to be the “moon’s knight,” redeeming his life of violence by now protecting and avenging the innocent.”
Did anyone else catch the problems here? First off, when they depict this Jew as a mercenary, will they go full on Shylock or will he just be rubbing his hands over piles of money?
And second, the Jewish people were enslaved by Egyptians and risked EVERYTHING to avoid to worshiping their gods. Having an Egyptian god bring a Jewish superhero back to life would be as stupid and insensitive as having Black Panther brought back to life by a white slave owner.
Was there literally not ONE Jew in the room who had stayed awake at ONE Passover Seder his entire life who might have caught this?!
Although this character first appeared in Werewolf by Night #32 in August 1975, Disney does not make content the way that it used to in other eras. In fact, when they recently announced a Snow White remake, actor Peter Dinklage rightly sounded off on the continuous stereotypical and cartoonish takes on dwarfs. And Disney told Deadline:
“To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the original animated film, we are taking a different approach with these seven characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community.”
The categories of sensitivity thankfully continue to spread, but what about the Jews?
A mitigating factor in the Moon Knight character is his name. The Jewish people are compared to the moon in our holy books, as our nation waxes and wanes, but never disappears. And if Disney is willing to play ball, we could fix this character on that theme.
Disney- like the moon, we aren’t going anywhere. Fix this unfortunate mistake before it’s too late.
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The show is following the comic book origin from the 1970s. I don’t think they are going to
Go the way you fear they will.
I know but there are a lot of things Disney did in other eras that they’d never do today. Like Snow White for instance.
Jew with an observant upbringing, suffering from a severe identity crisis while wrestling with forces of Egypt, the paradigm of exile we’ve been in since our nation was formed there. Our salvation then was in part due to the very first mitzvah we received: Kiddush Hachodesh – sanctifying the MOON, which like you wisely said, mirrors our survival throughout the galus. Plus he wears a white cape (not unlike a tallis)! Sounds pretty interesting to me! (Whether any of the character or show creators had any intention of the above, maybe The Creator did.)
Marvel’s other openly Jewish character is MAGNETO, a vengeful Shoah survivor who wants Mutant Supremacy and control of the world (hmm…) Not good PR.
There’s also golem-esque FF hero, Benjamin Jacob Grimm, a.k.a. The THING. We’ll have to wait and see if and how faithful Disney’s MCU makes him.
This story goes back to 1975. No Jews worked on it back then. The fact that it was an Egyptian god had no bearing on the story except as a vehicle for delivery. Hopefully they will do something positive, but I don’t think your initial take now is going to do anything. We need to wait until the season debuts, and then we can judge. As far as Snow White, CBS released Once Upon A Time, and the “dwarves” were replaced with regular people, as miners and fisherman. If Disney does a re-make, they will for sure make it more palatable for the modern audience. As far as representation, Dinklage is playing Cyrano de Burgerac in the forthcoming movie of the same name. No studio will be perfect, but at least they’re trying to be inclusive. It’s a step in the correct direction.
For the record, at least one of the character’s creators is Jewish, and of course all the editors were back then.
Jews can make mistakes too.
Allison: you seem to have forgotten something: this is 100% exactly how it happened in the comics. It should also be noted that the protagonist suffers from disassociative identity disorder and in the comics has 5 separate personalities that live inside one body. We have yet to see a single episode of Moon Knight and you’re already crying foul. Wait until the entire series has come out and then cry foul. Until then, you’re just crying wolf.
An Egyptian god as a savior in a Jewish story is an inappropriate premise no matter what.
Konshu, the Egyptian god in question, is the furthest thing possible from a “savior”. Konshu is not his friend, not his partner, and certainly not his savior. Moon Knight is one of the most complicated characters in Marvel and grappling with his Jewish faith against his servitude towards Konshu is part of his character.
You asked if there was ONE Jewish person on the set that would have caught this “problem”. Have you, Allison, read ONE issue of Moon Knight or did you get offended with no context? Of all the things that are inappropriate with Moon Knight (and there are very, very many things), his faith is not one of them. Shame on you for writing something like this.
Thanks for your comment. As the Egyptian god saves Moon Knight’s life, that is literally the definition of a savior. Furthermore, if Marvel would not have Black Panther brought back to life by a white slave owner, which they wouldn’t because it would be terribly cringeworthy, the Jewish community should get a similar treatment.
So that’s a “No” as far as reading a single issue of Moon Knight then? Just a hot take based on a paragraph or two you read somewhere?
Khonsu resurrects Spector but he does not save him. Whatever definition of “savior” you want to use, Khonsu is not that. Your example of a slave owner and Black Panther is much closer to the truth and the complications of that is a part of what makes Moon Knight something called an “interesting character.”
Resurrecting someone is saving them from death. Interesting that the comparison is similar to Black Panther being resurrected by a white slave owner. As interesting as that would be, Marvel would never do that.
Exactly 👌🏼 Allison.
Unfortunately it seems to me that media attempting to portray Jews does not consult any orthodox Jews. Either they think they know enough about Judaism themselves, or they consult Jews who really don’t know much about Judaism. It makes no sense, but seems to reflect the fact that in America, authentic and honest Judaism just doesn’t seem to really be on the radar.
Spector is a soldier for Hire—a mercenary. It has nothing to
Do with money grubbing. Again it’s from the comics
Yes it is a job. But it also has a greedy and money grubbing meaning to it which is quite unfortunate with a Jewish character.
He has always been a mercenary and cia operative. Perhaps they made him that to show him as a strong Jew since it was around the time Of entebbe and the idf. Perhaps we should watch it first before we talk about how bad it is. Perhaps, we should contact marvel
Comics to ask them to work on moon knight since it is their property. It’s too late now for the tv version season 1 but not for season 2.
I’m still very uncomfortable with Jew in the City’s campaign of “Let’s all jump on the outrage bandwagon, and just make sure that Jews get a part of that action too!” I can’t say it’s not a *logical* plan, given the madness of the age, but it’s still ugly and opportunistic. Not to mention that it’s doomed to fail (because the powers that be- many of them, ironically, Jewish- long ago decided that Jews don’t count), and perhaps even backfire in bad ways.
The main character in the show is played by an actor with not a drop of Jew in him, by the way, which is fine with me but which (again, under the mad logic of our age) is Supposed To Matter. That it doesn’t helps prove my point above.
Don’t assume Marvel writers know what you know.
Hey, let’s have a superhero with a Jewish background. More Jewish kids will buy our comics.
We need a cool origin story. What could be cooler than getting resurrected by an Egyptian god? King Tut’s all the rage, right?
Assuming there’s anything more thought than that going into his story would be a mistake.
I don’t believe there was malice here. I believe every other minority works with experts in the community and the Jews just wing it. That’s the exact problem.
Assuming that’s all there is to his story is a mistake. His Jewish faith is a central part of his character and it’s insulting that you think he’s only Jewish as a cash grab.
There are midrashim that state that Moshe Rabbeinu himself allowed his eldest son Gershom to not be circumcised because of the wishes of his father in law Reuel (a.k.a Yitro) who had idolatrous intentions. According to this midrash, it was this son that was later circumcised in Shmot 4:25.
If our own midrashim can teach these sorts of things, I don’t think we need to make such a big deal about a show on Disney. Everyone has an origin story.
Yisro was not a mitzri.
The point I was attempting to make is that our allegiance to the One God is it as iron clad as people make it out to be. If our greatest leader had potential details of his origin story tied to idolatry, then a comic book character shouldn’t raise any eyebrows IMO.
And if the real issue is because it was specifically Egypt , then why did Shlomo HaMelech dare to marry pharaohs daughter? There was a Jewish king who was indeed over zealous about not allowing contact with Egypt. His name was Yoshiyahu and he was one of he most pious kings in our history (2-melachim chapter 22, 2-divrei hayamim chapter 34). However, his stubborn stance against Egypt cost him his life and, ultimately, led to our eventual exile
Marvel would never make a story about Black Panther being resurrected by a white slave owner. It would be considered disgusting and insensitive. I don’t know why we always settle for less.
I get your point. However, I wouldn’t equate the two at all.
If Egypt was so terrible to us then it would be quite odd for the Torah to tell us they could eventually become part of the Jewish faith if they so desire, more so than Ammon and Moav, and that we should be grateful for sojourning in their land (Devarim 23:8).
And again, it would be rather bizarre for Shlomo HaMelech to marry a daughter of Pharaoh.
The storyline in the comic of the moon God of Egypt, if anything, was likely inspired by the renewal of the moon mentioned in the Torah as we were on the cusp of salvation (Shmot 12:1-2).
In the end, I do not think I’m going to convince you, despite my sources in Tanakh, which you haven’t really addressed. My main point is that things aren’t as black and white as your article portrays. To me, there are bigger issues in the Jewish world, certainly the orthodox one (which I myself associate myself with), and I think you’ve done a great job raising some of them. This issue, however, is one that I am not fully convinced about.
It’s the sloppiness that bothers me. Marvel doesn’t know these tanach sources. Egypt is the symbol of our first major suffering as a people.
I totally get you.
When you say that “Egypt” is that symbol of suffering, what exactly does that mean? Does that mean anything having to do with Egypt should not be portrayed? I get your point about the white slave driver. Similarly, a nazi would be insensitive to Jews. Perhaps you’d even have a point if a Pharaonic leader, like Rameses II or Amenhotep II, was responsible as they were likely the pharaohs of the exodus.
But we’re dealing with an Egyptian god that is detached from the storyline that everyone knows. And when it comes to ancient gods, it’s not unreasonable to select an Egyptian one, for there are dozens (hundreds?) and they are perhaps one of the earliest collection of gods, so they were used for ancient effect or what have you.
Would it be insensitive if an Egyptian daughter of pharaoh rose from the grave and saved the guy? Of course not. That’s because a daughter of pharaoh herself saved Moshe. Everyone knows that.
I don’t really see the broyges here.
I see an Egyptian god as the symbol of the very thing the children of Israel escaped from. To be free to worship the God of Israel.
I understand you and I partly agree with that statement. But taking the perspective of the writer of the comic or Marvel or Disney etc., why do you expect them to have that same opinion as you, to the point that it would be insensitive not to? According to the plain meaning of the text, to the degree that these individuals should be expected to know, we did not leave Egypt to escape idolatrous worship
Because every old story (like Snow White) is being revisited to make sure it’s culturally sensitive. The same should be done for a Jewish character. Bring in knowledgeable and committed Jews to weigh in on the character and story.
A lot of people had complained in the past that Marvel shouldn’t have cast Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector — what many don’t know, though, is that Oscar Isaac is 1/8 Jewish (biologically). To me, that’s Jewish enough to take that role.